Building a Bigger Chest

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Saturday 16th October 2010
In this article
  • Safety first — an injured chest impresses no one.
  • The Routine — an achievable route to bigger pecs.
  • Technique tips to remember.

As every SharpMan knows, a concave chest does nothing to improve your chances with the ladies. Rather, a sure way to make them swoon is to be able to crack walnuts between your pecs. That special SharpWoman will be running her hands all over your chest while purring into your ear. Well, maybe.

Safety First

You can’t get a barrel chest if you are always nursing injuries. Keep in mind the following to stay healthy enough to get results.

Warm up. Always prepare your body before lifting weights. A good warm-up does what you might expect — it warms up muscles. This makes them more pliable and, therefore, more resistant to injury. Stretch thoroughly and get in a short run or bike ride.

Proper technique. Always, always, always use the right form when performing any exercise. Whether it is the routine that follows, or something else, make sure that you are doing the exercises the proper way. This will eliminate injuries and ensure maximum results. When in doubt, check with a trainer.

Use a smooth and slow motion regardless of what you are doing. With chest exercises you also want to avoid locking your elbows at the top of the lift. This puts significant strain on the joint and can lead to tendonitis or other injuries.

Be careful not to bounce the bar on your chest as you lower it during bench press exercises. Doing so can lead to traumatic chest injuries. More on this exercise later.

Focus. Think about what you are doing. If you daydream, your focus is not on your technique. This can lead to accidents.

Don’t compete. What your buddy can lift has no bearing on what you should be lifting. You can get into trouble over-extending yourself trying to keep up with someone else. Beat him on the squash court, instead. Or just steal his girlfriend. (See Stealing SharpWomen for tips.)

Avoid the Pec Deck. With this popular machine you sit with your arms bent at 90 degrees while spread apart to the side. Your forearms brace pads that you then push toward each other, coming to a full stop in front of your face. This machine is sometimes referred to as the "Pec Wreck," because it does not effectively work the chest and it puts enormous strain on the shoulder and rotator cuff.

The Routine

You can build a better chest using four specific and effective exercises. The order can be varied based on your preference but most people start with the Flat Bench Press. Some trainers recommend changing the order from time to time as a means of "shocking" the muscles into positive gains.

Flat Bench Press. This one is the standard. It builds the whole chest, but especially the middle portion.

  • Lie flat on a bench with your feet flush on the floor.
  • Ensure that you are firmly supported on the middle of the bench from your butt to your head.
  • The repetition begins with your arms straight up over your chest holding the barbell. Your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Lower the bar slowly and in control to your nipples. Stop just above your chest or just barely touch it. Then raise it back to the starting position. Remember the safety tips previously reviewed.
  • Pause at the top, then repeat.

Incline Bench Press. Exactly the same as the Flat Bench Press, but done on an incline bench, instead. This version works the upper chest. Set the bench to a lower setting. If you are too upright your shoulders will get some of the load instead of your chest. Lying back at 45 degrees is perfect.

Decline Bench Press. Yes, there is a theme, here. This one is the same as the Flat Bench Press but is performed on a decline bench. Your head is thus below the rest of your upper body and your lower chest feels the burn.

Chest Flies. This one focuses on the inner chest.

  • Lie on a flat bench with your feet flush with the floor.
  • Ensure that your upper body is fully supported by the bench.
  • Hold dumbbells in each hand extended above your chest. There should be a slight bend in the elbows and your palms are facing one another a bit closer than shoulder width apart.
  • Slowly arc your arms downward away from one another maintaining the slight bend in your elbows.
  • Upon reaching a comfortable stretch in your chest, raise the dumbbells back to the starting position following the same path as the descent.
  • Pause briefly, then repeat.

It is important to not lock up your elbows straight during this exercise. Visualize hugging a tree — or a voluptuous SharpWoman — and you should be getting it right.

Technique Tips

When lifting, focus on the actual muscle that you are training. Thinking "chest" will help avoid cheating by lifting with your arms and thus altering your technique.

Be sure to inhale during the easiest part of the lift and exhale as you push/pull the most difficult part. You should always be exhaling when the muscles are most heavily taxed. For example, when performing any bench press you should be inhaling as you lower the weight and exhaling at the most difficult point of raising it.

Perform each exercise outlined herein three times each week. Since you are trying to build strength and mass, keep the repetitions low and use heavier weight. Do three sets of each exercise, increasing the weight lifted each time. You should lift the first set ten times, the second eight times, and the third six times. Then move on to the next exercise and use the same routine. If you are new to strength training, start with a few weeks of lifting lower weight with more repetitions — up to twenty. This will enable you to master the correct form and minimize the risk of injury.

Be patient and be persistent. You won’t see changes overnight. But if you stick with the program the results will come. At that point, your powerful, walnut-cracking self should have the SharpWomen draped all over you. Well, maybe.

Looking for more information on how to be a buff SharpMan? Check out these past articles: How to Find a Health Club; Adding an Inch to Your Arms and Office Fitness: The Abdominal Workout.

This article last updated on Saturday 16th October 2010
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